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Happier

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It is at the wedding of Lady Arya Stark and Lord Gendry Baratheon that she realizes she has never been happier.

The new lady of Storm’s End is striking in her wedding gown, a gown Arya must have sworn a thousand times over that she would never wear, much like herself. Yet here they both are; Lady Arya Baratheon in a gown of ivory silk, and Ser Brienne of Tarth, the lady of Evenfall Hall and a knight of the Seven Kingdoms, in a gown of the deepest blue to match the shimmering waters of her home.

She saw so much of Arya in herself. Two high-born ladies who never fit in, never wanted to be ladies. Both of them, trained fighters, skilled with a blade, who only wanted to be warriors. But something changed for her, for both of them, she supposed, along the way.

Maybe it was when she realized that accepting her position as the Lady of Evenfall didn’t make her any less of a warrior, or any less worthy of knighthood. No, she thought, it had only made her stronger, braver, and more just. Still, there were parts of being a lady that she simply detested. It wasn’t as if she enjoyed wearing gowns really, but nothing much else fits when one’s belly swells with child.

She tears her eyes away from the happy couple, only to observe her husband. Ser Jaime Lannister, Lord of Evenfall Hall and Casterly Rock, pays no mind to the newly married man and wife. No, instead he is busy occupying their daughter on his lap, tickling her and whispering silly nonsense in her ear, her golden curls bouncing as she giggles. The ladies in front of them turn their heads when Catelyn laughs a little too loudly, but she ignores them. Who are they to judge such happiness?

She happens to catch Jaime’s eye and he smiles at her, his eyes shining, much like they had been on the night after the battle of Winterfell, the first night they were together. Even as his beard has become grayer and there are more lines around his eyes than there were before the war, he is still the most handsome man she has ever known. It still amazes her to this day, when she spares the thought, that she, the Maid of Tarth, is a married woman, and a mother. Never in a thousand years would she have imagined when she began her journey with Jaime Lannister that it would have brought them here. Every day she thanks the Old Gods and the New for filling her heart with more happiness than she ever thought she would know.

&&&

“That was a beautiful wedding, don’t you think,” her husband drawls from somewhere behind her as they ready themselves for bed that night.

She pulls her night shift over her head, rolling her eyes. “You were hardly even paying attention.”

She doesn’t even have to look at him to hear the smirk in his voice. “Well, Catelyn was bored, and she needed someone to entertain her.”

His arms encircle her from behind, his left hand caressing her belly as he presses his lips to her neck.

“Besides, my love,” he continues, his breath warm on her skin, “I am rather partial to our wedding…and even more partial to our wedding night.”

“Jaime,” she laughs and moves away to finish dressing for bed, but still, she has to agree. It would be a lie if she had said she had dreamt of her wedding since she was a girl, and yet, it was everything she could have dreamt of, would have dreamt of, had she been that sort of a girl.

When Jaime asked her papa for her hand, he had tried to play the part of a severe and unyielding father, but Lord Selwyn relented in the end. He knew what Jaime was, and all that he had done, and still, though loathe to show it, he was happy to welcome him as his son-in-law. Not because his daughter was finally marrying, but because his daughter was marrying a man who loved her, and she him.

They were married in the great hall of her childhood home among their closest friends and family. It was the first time she had worn a dress since Jaime rescued her from the bear pit. She would never forget his words when he turned from the septon to look at her. “You are so beautiful,” he had whispered, and she knew that he had meant it.

And when they made their vows in sight of the Seven, neither of them could hide the tears that glistened in their eyes as they became husband and wife, both immeasurably grateful to have been given such a chance; to have lived, and to have found one another. “I am his and he is mine,” she had said, “from this day, until my last day.”

She still wasn’t, and would never be, a conventional lady. Up until last month, she was still wearing her armor, sparring with squires out in the courtyard, until Jaime persuaded (begged) her to let Pod oversee their training in her stead. She was a stubborn woman, but Pod was a knight, Ser Podrick now, and she knew that he was very capable of training young squires. She had trained him, after all.

She still wasn’t, and would never be, conventionally beautiful. She had grown her hair out a little, to an inch or two below her jaw now, her blonde locks curling to frame her face, but it didn’t change who she was. It didn’t change that she was uncommonly tall for a woman, or that her shoulders were a little too broad, or her jaw a little too strong. She would never be beautiful to the other lords of Westeros, but they were miserable little shits anyway, and it was only Jaime who mattered. And she knew that she was beautiful to him, no matter whether she wore a dress made of the finest thread, her battle armor, or nothing at all.

There, in their guest chambers at Storm’s End, Brienne finds little Catelyn sleeping soundly in her cot, and tucks a curl behind her daughter’s ear before blowing out the last candle illuminating the room. She joins her husband in bed, and in the darkness his right arm wraps around her waist and pulls her closer.

“I love you, Brienne,” he whispers as she begins to drift to sleep. No, she thought, she truly has never been happier.